Panasonic ST30 vs. S30

Are the blacks visually better on the Panasonic ST30 plasma compared with the S30? And do I really need to pay attention to the Moving Picture Resolution spec? Are there any models you would consider other than these? I'm not interested in 3D, but I understand that it will be included with the better TVs.

Dave Butler

The blacks are essentially identical on these two models, as revealed in our review of the TC-P50ST30 here and TC-P50S30 here. Both are just under 0.010 foot-lamberts, which is the maximum value for decent picture quality in my book. The only significant difference between them is the ST30's 3D capability, which comes at a $300 premium.

The Moving Picture Resolution spec provides some insight into how sharp moving images will look, but there is no way to know how the manufacturer measured this, so I take it with a grain of salt. The best way to evaluate this is to take some Blu-rays with fast-action scenes to the store and see which display looks the sharpest. Plasmas are generally better at this than LCDs, unless you enable the LCD's frame interpolation (assuming it's 120 or 240hz), though this also causes the dreaded "soap-opera effect," which many viewers object to more than motion blur. Also, keep in mind that fast motion in film-originated content will always be blurry because it was shot at 24 frames per second, which doesn't capture fast motion well.

As for other models in this price range, the only other one I might consider is the Samsung D6000 LED LCD; we reviewed the 46-inch UN46D6000 here. It carries the same list price as the TC-P50ST30, but it does not do 3D, and its slightly smaller. I prefer its implementation of online apps over the Panasonic's, and its black level is way deeper than the ST30 and S30 thanks to LED dimming. This is not local dimming, since the LEDs are on the edges of the screen, but rather overall dynamic dimming, which works quite well in this set. However, like all LED-edgelit LCDs, this one suffers from uneven illumination in dark scenes, which can be very distracting. All in all, I prefer the Panasonics.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to

Stephen Trask's picture

I know the black levels are fairly close but your measurements showed a greater than 10% difference, which is significant. Also, for what it's worth, the price difference between these two items in the 50" size is now only $7 on Amazon. so it's an 11% improvement for seven bucks. I didn't look at the 30" size but if the price difference is similarly compressed, I'd go with the ST.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Had I set up the S30 the same as Tom Norton set up the ST30, the black level would have been exactly the same, 0.008fL. As it was, I increased the peak white level to 29.2fL, which raised the black level to 0.009fL, an increase of just under 10%. And perceptually, I see very little difference between 0.008 and 0.009fL, so I don't consider this difference to be significant. Also, I just looked on Amazon, and I saw that the TC-P50S30 is selling new for $797.96, while the TC-P50ST30 is $997.96, a difference of $200, which is significant in my book. Finally, no plasma is made in a 30-inch screen size.
tbh1984's picture

Are the calibration settings correct on the settings page of your S30 review, or how can I adjust the calibration to match Tom Norton's settings as referenced above so the black levels will match?

Stephen Trask's picture

I was simply going by the numbers reported here regarding the black levels. And over the weekend at least, the price difference was only 7 dollars. I looked it up for a friend, coincidentally. Maybe it was a cyber Monday thing.

And yeah, I got confused by the 30 at the end. I can't keep these numbers straight. But if the price difference is no longer 7 dollars then it's not worth it. I stand corrected.